A Manitoba Court has ruled that an arbitration hearing in which the anticipated evidence concerned police officers’ advance knowledge of a murder plot, must be open to the public.
The Winnipeg Free Press published an article in 2003 about the murder of Kevin Tokarchuk. The article alleged that an informant had told police officers beforehand of a possible plot to kill Tokarchuk, and alleged the police had failed to warn him. As a result, the Winnipeg Police Service conducted an internal investigation. During the investigation, it placed several police officers on paid leave of absence. It then reassigned them to different duties. The officers filed a grievance.
When the Free Press attended the arbitration hearing, both the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Police Association objected to the reporter’s presence. The arbitrator held that information concerning a police informant would form an essential part of the case and therefore ordered the hearing closed to the public.
The Free Press sought a review of the arbitrator’s decision. The Court held that the law prevented the parties from leading evidence that would identify the informant. It also found that it was highly unlikely that the informant’s identity would be revealed by mistake, and therefore ordered that the hearing be open to the public.